Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Mark 'TNT' Tucker heads back to the ring

In March of 2011, Eldersburg resident Mark "TNT" Tucker, who was then just a 23-year-old, was ranked in the top-ten in the North American Boxing Organization, on a 15-fight winning streak and had won two different light heavyweight titles.
Yet in that same month, he suffered an injury to his right shoulder, came down with an acute case of bronchitis and eventually lost his first professional fight.
Tucker's father and trainer, Mark Tucker Sr., said that he should not have fought that fight and that they could have waited.
"As an amateur, you fight when you're told but as a professional, you can choose to postpone a fight," the elder Tucker said. "Since he had fought injured before, we decided to go ahead with it. And we didn't want to disappoint any fans who had bought tickets."
After the loss, the younger Tucker took some time off to let his body heal. It was later in 2011, when he had gotten back to training, that a series of misfortunes struck his family.
A week before Christmas, his brother was involved in a near-fatal car accident. He required brain surgery to relieve pressure in his skull and spent 10 days in the hospital. During this time, his father never left his other son's side.
"During the 10 days he was in the hospital, I didn't sleep more than an hour a day," the elder Tucker said.
After his brother was released from the hospital, the younger Tucker began training again. However, by June 2012, the stress from dealing with his other son's hospitalization took its toll on the elder Tucker.
In August of last year, Tucker Sr. underwent his first of six heart surgeries and one lung surgery.
"I was diagnosed with an enlarged heart due to three faulty valves," he explained. "The operation lasted a full day and my heart was out of my body for nine hours. They replaced one of my faulty valves with a cow valve. They actually gave me the option between a cow and a pig's valve, but I chose the cow because I figured the bull will kick a little harder."
One year later, the younger Tucker is training again. The workout regimen his father puts him through is intensive.
"Usually I'll have him run between eight to 12 miles to start the day, and then finish in the afternoon with 30 three-minute rounds starting with shadow boxing then moving to the heavy bag and switching between that and an uppercut bag, reactor bag, double-end bag and speed bag," the elder Tucker said. "Then he jumps rope and finishes with shadow boxing."
Since his surgeries, Tucker Sr. admitted that he cannot do as much physically as he used to. Steve Broussard, a Carroll County resident, regularly volunteers to help TNT Tucker train. He isn't the only person to offer their time and expertise.
Tucker also trains with Tom Freedman, owner of Athens Gym in Sykesville.
"I met Jr. years ago when he first became a member at Athens and was still fighting," Freedman said. "Initially I gave him a free membership and information on dieting and supplement use."
When Tucker decided to get back into training, Freedman was one of the first people he talked to about returning to peak fighting shape.
"I train with Tom because Athens is the only gym in Carroll County that lets me do the lifts I have to do to train," he said.
"His training began with light weights and conditioning exercises," Freedman said. "He had to become an athlete first, before he could become a boxer again. I've trained him for three months and his workout program now consists almost entirely of power and Olympic style lifts."
The younger Tucker also said that Steve Freedman, co-owner of Athens and brother to Tom, provides immense motivation. The Freedman brothers have done all this for him, free of charge.
"It's easy to write Tucker off as just a normal, quiet guy, but once I got to know him, I saw a willpower you can't overlook," Freedman said.
According to the younger Tucker, the hardest part about getting back into the ring is acquiring sponsorship. In 2011 his largest sponsor, David Blessing - a Woodbine resident who owned Interlock Steelworkers Inc. - passed away. Since his last fight, He has lost many sponsors, but some have stayed with him. John Hyrowski, who lives just on the other side of the border between Carroll and Howard County and owns Maryland Ground Maintenance located in Clarksville, is now one of the boxer's largest sponsors.
"There are so many expenses that go into training - equipment upkeep and replacement, food, and traveling - that it's important that we get new sponsorship," Tucker's father said. "It costs $200 a month just for hand tape and gauze padding."
Tucker is excited about getting back into the ring. He said he hopes to have the first fight of his comeback later this year, probably around Halloween or Thanksgiving, but the exact date is still to be determined.
His ambitious timetable is testament to his fortitude and capabilities.
"My goal is win a world title. Actually, my goal is to win multiple world titles," he said.